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My Artists: The Ultimate Replacement

I posted a preview of My Artists back in June, but the app I have here on my iPhone now is nothing like that. My Artists was already good and promising (as if it wasn0t clear enough), now it’s just great.

It’s more than an iPod companion, it’s a full-featured iPod replacement for iOS devices. Hit the break to find out.

Just like all the music apps available for iPhone and iPod Touch, My Artists is tied to the music library contained in and synced via iTunes. These are Apple’s rules, but the good thing is you don’t have to worry about the app supporting multitasking or audio controls: it’s an iPod layer which you can use a standalone app. For instance, iOS 4 widget controls and MusicBarExtended work just fine with it.

So you sync music via iTunes like you normally do and fire up My Artists. What you get is an awesome iPod replacement and music library enhancer that not only comes with a better and richer UI than Apple’s app, it also integrates pictures, text and videos with your music experience. Indeed what the developer Oisin Prendiville wanted to achieve was a rich and “visual” app based on the concept that music lovers care about artists, not singles or hits or remixes. When I want to listen to some Arcade Fire tunes, I say “I want to listen to Arcade Fire”. I don’t look for a specific song in, I switch to Artists tab and select Arcade Fire. With this in mind, Oisin created an app that focuses on artists - and builds an entire experience on top of them.

When you open My Artists, you’re greeted with a list of all the artists found in the Music Library. Here’s the first great feature: thumbnails for artists. The app needs an internet connection to retrieve thumbnails, but I’ve noticed that both on 3G and wifi scrolling is pretty smooth despite the app needs to connect to to generate the list. Indeed, the developer seriously optimized My Artists from last time I tried it. As you tap on an artist’s name you get another screen with a photo of the artist on top (with a caption right below it), a “My Albums” tab and a “Other Popular Albums” one. I love how you can swipe on the picture to enlarge, a nice little touch. Now you have three choices: either you start playing a song from one of your albums or you check out the bio and other albums. Oh, of course albums and other albums have thumbnails, too.

When you select a song, a new screen slides up with the band’s picture, bio link and music controls. The UI is beautiful. You can tap on Hide (top left) to go back to the library, or tap Explore to open a new page with Bio, Youtube and Discover links. Bio is fetched from Wikipedia, and formatted for the iPhone screen; you can tap on links inside the Wikipedia article to keep exploring new artists and bands. The Youtube tab is interesting, because I don’t know how it works. I mean, it’s Youtube - only with perfect results targeted to me. Perhaps the developer applied some filters or custom queries to get these results, but thing is they’re just perfect. Great job. The Discover tab contains links to similar artists (and they’re pretty damn accurate) and genres.

There are two other features that may go unnoticed on a first try but I really appreciate: the persistent “go to playing song” shortcut and the bio overlay in the playing UI. The shortcut makes it easy to go back to the song whatever you’re doing with My Artists. As for features I’d like to see, I only have two requests: scrobbling and lyrics as song overlays.

I don’t see the point in using Apple’s anymore, now that My Artists is out and available in the App Store. It’s a beautiful, fast and powerful replacement for iPod that lives on top of it, yet manages to integrate features Apple never implemented. And it feels natural.

My Artists is a must-have for all you music lovers out there.

$1.99 in the App Store. 50% discount for a limited time.

We have 10 promo codes up for grabs. Go on and comment, tell us what artists you’re currently into and that’s it. Winners will be announced tomorrow, so be quick. Good luck!

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